This session discussed the transportation issues facing farmers today and the difficulty in interpreting the existing regulations and how they apply to farmers. Funding for infrastructure is also a major issue in most states and this problem isn’t going away.
The expert panel for the session was made up of people who address these issues for agriculture daily. The panel included Samuel Kieffer from Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Garrett Hawkins from Missouri Farm Bureau, Michael Wright from South Carolina Farm Bureau and Kevin Rund from Illinois Farm Bureau.
The panel discussed how infrastructure associated with agriculture is disadvantaged today because earmarks in funding for rural infrastructure has disappeared. This means we need to find a different way to fund infrastructure for agriculture.
Another important issue facing agriculture transportation is barge transportation on waterways. The current drought has made barge traffic very difficult and almost nonexistent in certain areas. Due to low water levels this past year, barges have reduced their load capacity just to maintain barge traffic. One barge can transport as much as 1,050 semi tractor-trailers and 216 rail cars. A barge is more efficient in the number of miles it can travel per gallon of diesel compared to trucks and rail.
This session offered an in depth look into what states have been facing regarding transportation. There was a focus on the importance of barge traffic to agriculture, in addition to the importance of our port system in the United States. If our ports are not kept up to date we will lose out to more modern ports like Cuba.
The panel emphasized we need certainty in funding for long term planning for our aging infrastructure system. Farmers need to engage in these conversations and talk about the important role transportation plays in their farming operations.
Chris Chinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri, serves on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in Nashville. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).